On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). ESSA provides support to high schools where one-third or more of students do not graduate. It also provides support to schools with groups of traditionally underserved students who consistently demonstrate low performance. The law requires data on student achievement and graduation rates to be reported as well as action in response to that data. However, unlike NCLB, states, districts, and schools will determine what support and interventions are implemented.
ESSA provides states and districts with a great degree of flexibility and responsibility. Developing such state-set policies that relate to “n-size,” achievement and graduation goals, timelines for progress, and school improvement strategies warrants the strong involvement of diverse communities and education experts. The Alliance is committed to working in partnership with civil rights organizations and others to support states in ensuring an equity-driven implementation of this bill.
Everything You Need to Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act
Accountability: Under ESSA, states are accountable for focusing resources on low-performing schools and traditionally underserved students who consistently demonstrate low academic performance.
- Side-by-side chart comparing accountability provisions in NCLB, NCLB waivers, and the Every Student Succeeds Act
- ESSA One-Page Fact Sheet: Accountability
- VIDEO: Five-Minute Federal Flash: A Deep Dive on Accountability Provisions Within ESSA
Assessments: ESSA supports states in implementing high-quality assessments by providing new assessment flexibility, funding, and a new pilot program. These new policies will support teachers in using assessments to foster deeper learning among students, including the ability to master core academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, and communicate effectively.
High Schools: Under ESSA, states and districts are responsible for supporting and improving the quality of low-performing high schools.
Teachers and School Leaders: Under ESSA, states and districts are responsible for improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders in increasing student academic achievement.
Linked Learning: Under ESSA, assessments must include measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding and may be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended-performance tasks.
Deeper Learning: Under ESSA, states are required to adopt challenging academic content standards and demonstrate that those standards align with entrance requirements for credit-bearing course work in the state’s public system of higher education and with relevant state career and technical education (CTE) standards. By adopting challenging academic standards that ask students to think critically and analyze complex problems, states can help develop deeper learning.
Digital Learning: Under ESSA, states and districts may use federal Title II funds to support training and professional development for teachers, principals, and other school leaders on how to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction. ESSA also includes a competitive grant program to support professional development to improve classroom instruction specifically for English learners. Grant funds from this program may be used to support the use of technology-based programs that are effective in increasing student academic achievement and instruction of English learners.
Personalized Learning: ESSA supports states and districts in implementing personalized learning, a student-centered approach designed to help all students develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will prepare them for college, a career, and life. Personalized learning emphasizes
- developing trusted and caring relationships between teachers and students;
- connecting learning to the real world;
- linking curriculum to students’ interests, strengths, and aspirations;
- providing students individually targeted instruction, practice, and support where they are struggling; and
- creating more flexible learning environments.
Personalized learning requires those working in schools to rethink the ways they teach and support students in their learning.
Rural Schools: ESSA offers a number of opportunities to support rural education by providing states and local districts more flexibility while preserving the critical role of the federal government.
High School Dropout Prevention ESSA includes several provisions that support state and district efforts to prevent students from dropping out of high school and reengage out-of-school youth.
American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Students ESSA includes several provisions that target the education needs of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students.
Teacher Preperation ESSA offers several opportunities for states, districts, and not-for-profit and for-profit entities to invest in high-quality innovative teacher preparation and support new educators as they begin their careers.
Recommendations on ESSA Implementation: During a January 11 public meeting on ESSA, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise urged the U.S. Department of Education to clarify the law’s focus on traditionally underserved students and the nation’s lowest-performing high schools. Read Wise’s statement and recommendations.
Recommendations for Implementation of Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Recommendations submitted by the Alliance for Excellent Education to the U.S. Department of Education regarding several regulations to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate from high school ready for college, a career, and citizenship. Download the recommendations.
Regulatory Recommendations for Supporting Deeper Learning in ESSA: Recommendations from the Alliance for Excellent Education and Learning Policy Institute on how ESSA regulations can create deeper learning opportunities for all students and ensure that all students graduate from high school fully prepared for college, a career, and citizenship. Download the recommendations.
Coalition Letter on Deeper Learning: A joint letter from twenty-one organizations to the U.S. Department of Education on how ESSA implementation can support state and local innovation and to promote equity in opportunities for deeper learning. Download the letter.
Grad Nation Letter Urging Strong Support and Accountability for Graduation Rates: A joint letter to the U.S. Department of Education from the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education offering recommendations to ensure a strong focus on high school graduation rates through ESSA regulations. The letter specifically focuses on (1) low-graduation-rate high schools; (2) subgroup accountability for graduation rates; and (3) graduation rates within accountability systems. Download the letter.
Press Statement of Support: Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise says that the Every Student Succeeds Act “keeps the nation’s foot on the high school graduation rate pedal while also providing states and districts with a great deal of flexibility and responsibility.” Read his complete statement in support of ESSA.
Letter of Support: The Alliance for Excellent Education is pleased to endorse the Every Student Succeeds Act. It places an important emphasis on the nation’s lowest-performing high schools and will support the work of educators across America to continue increasing the nation’s high school graduation rate and ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in postsecondary education and the workforce. Read the Alliance’s letter of support for ESSA.
Coalition letter on ESSA Regulations: A letter sent by the Alliance and more than 50 civil rights organizations to Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King stating that as the U.S. Department of Education issues regulations to support the implementation of ESSA, there is a clear federal role in ensuring equal educational opportunities and success for traditionally underserved students. Read the Alliance’s letter on ESSA Regulations.